May a Non-Jew Own a Nectarine Tree? For That Matter, May a Jew?

clip_image002Recently I received the following query:

“I am not Jewish, but I observe the laws of Noahides as recorded in the writings of Maimonides, which I have read in the Yale University translation. I am aware that a gentile may not graft one species of tree onto another. Does owning a nectarine tree violate this prohibition? I would be greatly appreciative if you could answer this question since I have just purchased a house with a nectarine tree in the yard.

Sincerely,

Jacqueline Baker

250 Washington Blvd.

Asheville, NC” (name and address have been changed)

Many of us reading the heading may have wondered, “If I am permitted to eat nectarines, why shouldn’t I own a nectarine tree?” Although the answer to this question is fairly straightforward, there are many other issues that need clarification before we can answer Jacqueline’s shaylah.

First, let us explain the halachos of tree grafting applicable to Jews.

Sadly, because many Jews are unfamiliar with these halachos and unaware of the prevalence of grafted trees, they often unwittingly violate these laws.

Also, most people misunderstand the prohibition against kilayim, which is often translated as “mixed species.” People often misunderstood this to mean a prohibition against hybridization or cross-breeding. Although it is true that the Torah prohibits crossbreeding different species of animal, virtually all other types of forbidden kilayim have nothing at all to do with hybridization. First, we will list the six types of prohibited mixtures, called kilayim.

1. Wearing shatnez, which is a mix of wool and linen.

2. Cross-breeding two animal species.

3. Using two animal species to haul or work together. This mitzvah is usually called lo sacharosh, do not plow with an ox and a donkey together.

4. Grafting different tree species. A sub-category of this prohibition is planting one species on top of or inside another species.

5. Planting other crop species in a vineyard. (“Crop” in this article refers to any non-woody edible plant, such as vegetables, beans, wheat, poppyseed, etc.) 6. Planting two crop species together or near one another. Kilayim does not apply to species that are not eaten.

Although we usually assume that the word kilayim means “mixture,” some commentaries explain that this word originates from the same Hebrew root as the word “prison,” beis ke’le. Thus Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) explains that the root word ke’le means to keep or hold something back, and that the plural form kilayim is similar to yadayim or raglayim and means a pair. Therefore the word kilayim means to pair together two items that should be kept apart.

In order to explain the prohibition against grafting trees, the subject of our article, I will first provide some scientific background for city dwellers like myself, who know almost nothing about gardening and horticulture. Having been a city slicker almost my whole life, I freely admit that I knew little about this subject until I did some research in order to understand the halacha.

Hybridization (cross-breeding) of plants occurs when one pollinates the flower of one species with pollen from a different species. However, most of the prohibitions of kilayim have nothing to do with cross-breeding species. In the case of “herbaceous plants,” that is plants other than trees and shrubs, kilayim is a prohibition against planting two crop species close together. The halacha prohibits planting an alien crop species inside a vineyard, planting one species very close to another already planted species, planting one species on top or inside another species, and planting the seeds of two species together. Incidentally, these prohibitions apply only in Eretz Yisroel, with the exception of planting a different species inside a vineyard (Gemara Kiddushin 39a) and possibly of planting one species inside another (see Gemara and Tosafos Chullin 60a; Rambam, Hil. Kilayim 1:5 and Radbaz). Thus, someone in Chutz La’Aretz may plant his backyard garden with a wide variety of vegetables and other edibles without any halachic concern, whereas in Eretz Yisroel, someone planting a garden patch must be very careful to keep the different species separate. The complicated question of how far apart to plant them, and what qualifies as a valid separation if one plants them close together, is beyond the scope of this article (see Chazon Ish, Hil. Kilayim 6:1).

(By the way, the halachic definition of a species often differs from scientific definitions. For example, although some scientists consider wolves and dogs to be the same species, halacha does not; therefore one may not crossbreed them or use them to haul a load together [Mishnah Kilayim 1:6]. On the other hand, the Chazon Ish [3:7] discusses whether all citrus fruits are the same species concerning the laws of kilayim, which would permit grafting a grapefruit tree onto a lemon stock, whereas scientists consider them as two distinct species. According to the majority opinion, an esrog grafted onto a lemon tree is non kosher for the mitzvah on Sukkos, although the grafter may not have violated any Torah prohibition in the process.)

HARKAVAS ILAN – CROSS-GRAFTING

The laws of kilayim also prohibit grafting a branch of one species of tree onto the wood stock, or lower trunk, of another species. Although a town dweller may feel that this is a rare occurrence, in fact, contemporary plant nurseries and tree farmers usually graft branches of a species that produces delicious fruit onto the hardier stock of a different species.

For example, most modern peach and nectarine trees are produced by grafting a peach or nectarine branch onto the stock of a hardier tree, such as an almond. As I will explain, someone who performs this, either in Eretz Yisroel or in Chutz La’Aretz, violates a Torah prohibition whether he is Jewish or not. Therefore, a Jew who hires or requests a non-Jew to graft such a tree, or even to prune or water it after it was implanted, contravenes lifnei iveir, causing someone else to break a prohibition.

Because so many trees are grafted nowadays, someone who owns a peach tree should have a horticultural expert check whether its stock is also a peach tree, or whether it is of a different species. If the stock is peach, even of a different variety, he may keep the tree; if the stock is of a different species, he should chop off the tree below the point of the graft. (Some have suggested that George Washington chopped down his father’s cherry tree because it was grafted onto a different species. If this is true, George did an additional good deed, at least according to some opinions, besides telling the truth afterwards.) As we will see shortly, there is no violation of baal tashchis in cutting down this tree.

Often even a non-expert can detect if a tree was grafted onto a different species by simply scrutinizing the tree. If the bark somewhere near the bottom of the tree looks very different from the upper part of the tree, this indicates that the upper part of the tree was grafted, possibly onto a different species. Before purchasing a new tree at a nursery, examine the trunk carefully for signs of grafting. If indeed this tree is the product of a graft onto a different species, then watering or pruning it violates a Torah law, as I will explain. Furthermore, one may not use the sprinkler to irrigate the rest of the lawn if this tree will benefit.

NECTARINE TREES

Nectarine trees are susceptible to a host of plant diseases, and as a result are usually grafted onto the stock of peach, plum, almond or other trees. It is unclear whether peach and nectarine are halachically considered the same species or not, but the other species are certainly different species halachically. Therefore, although cross-pollinating different species does not violate halacha, watering a nectarine tree grafted onto a different species stock does.

By the way, one may plant or maintain different species of trees in close proximity, presumably because grown trees do not look mixed together but stand distinct.

DOES THE PROHIBITION AGAINST GRAFTING APPLY IN CHUTZ LA’ARETZ?

Although most agricultural mitzvos (mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz), such as terumah, maaser, and shmittah, apply only in Eretz Yisroel, some of these mitzvos also apply in Chutz La’Aretz, such as the mitzvah of orlah, which prohibits using fruit that grows on a tree before it is three years old.

Although the laws of orlah differ when the tree grows in Chutz La’Aretz, the fruit produced before the tree is three years old is nevertheless prohibited.

Where does kilayim fit into this picture? Of course, some kilayim prohibitions, such as shatnez, cross-breeding animals and lo sacharosh are not agricultural and therefore apply equally in Eretz Yisroel and in Chutz La’Aretz. Among the agricultural prohibitions of kilayim, some apply in Chutz La’Aretz also, whereas others apply only in Eretz Yisroel. .

Planting vegetables and other edible crops together applies only in Eretz Yisroel, grafting trees applies equally in Chutz La’Aretz and in Eretz Yisroel min hatorah, while planting in a vineyard applies in Chutz La’Aretz but only midirabbanan (Gemara Kiddushin 39a).

MAY ONE OWN KILAYIM?

The Gemara (Moed Katan 2b) cites a dispute whether maintaining kilayim in a vineyard (in Eretz Yisroel) is prohibited min hatorah. Rabbi Akiva contends that building a fence to protect kilayim violates a Torah law, whereas the Sages contend that it does not (Rashi to Avodah Zarah 64a).

Most poskim conclude that one may not own kilayim but must rip it up (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 297:2); Rambam (Hil. Kilayim 1:2) paskins like the Sages that this is prohibited only midirabbanan whereas Rosh (Hil. Kelayim #3) prohibits this min hatorah. (Note that Shu’t Chasam Sofer [Yoreh Deah #282] contends that Tosafos [to Avodah Zarah 64a s.v. Rabbi Akiva] permits owning kilayim.)

WHAT ABOUT OWNING A GRAFTED TREE?

Most poskim assume that one may not own a kilayim tree just as one may not own kilayim in a vineyard. Furthermore, they contend that this halacha applies whether the tree is in Eretz Yisroel or in Chutz La’Aretz (Rosh, Hil. Kilayim Chapters 1& 3; Pischei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 295:2, quoting many poskim).

However, many observant Jews purchased agricultural properties that contained kilayim trees and they did not cut down those trees. Was there any justification for their actions? Many halachic responsa discuss what was apparently a widespread practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Whereas most poskim rule that these Jews violated the halacha, some authorities justify the practice of owning these trees at least in Chutz La’Aretz (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #288; cf. Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 295:17-18). Even these opinions agree that it is preferred to follow the stricter approach and cut down the grafted part of the tree.

I THOUGHT THAT ONE MAY NOT CUT DOWN A FRUIT-BEARING TREE?

Although it is usually prohibited to chop down a tree that bears enough fruit to be profitable, this prohibition does not exist when owning the tree involves a prohibition. Furthermore, baal tashchis generally does not exist when one is trying to enhance one’s observance of mitzvos.

Nevertheless, it is preferred to have a non-Jew chop down the tree since he has no mitzvah of baal tashchis.

WHY DOES THIS MITZVAH APPLY TO NON-JEWS?

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 56b) quotes a dispute about this question. According to the Sages, the prohibition of kilayim does not apply to Bnei Noach, whereas according to Rabbi Elazar, Bnei Noach are included in some of the kilayim prohibitions but not others. Specifically, they are prohibited from mating different animal species and from grafting one species of fruit tree onto another, but they may plant different species together or in a vineyard, or wear shatnez.

Why are they included in one prohibition but not the other?

Describing the creation of plants, the Torah says:

“And G-d said, ‘The earth shall sprout forth vegetation, herbage that produces seed; Edible trees that produce fruit of their own species’ … And the earth produced vegetation, herbage that produces seed of its own species and trees that bear seed-bearing fruit of their own species.”

(Breishis 1:11-12).

Reading the pasuk carefully, we see that Hashem ordered only the trees, and not the herbaceous plants, to “produce fruit of their own species.”

Even though the herbage did in the end produce “seed of its own species,”

this was not because it was commanded. The Gemara derives from other sources that just as the earth was commanded to keep tree species distinct, so too, Adam HaRishon and all his descendants were commanded to keep these species distinct. But since the herbaceous world was never commanded to keep its species distinct, Adam was not commanded concerning this halacha. Therefore, although Jews may not plant them together, Bnei Noach may (Yerushalmi Kilayim 1:7, quoted by Gra to Yoreh Deah 295:2).

WHICH OPINION DO WE FOLLOW?

Do we rule like the Sages that a non-Jew is not included in the prohibition of harkavas ilan, or like Rabbi Elazar that he is? The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 10:6) rules like Rabbi Elazar that a non-Jew may not graft one species of tree onto another, whereas the Ritva (Kiddushin 39a s.v. Amar Rabbi Yochanan) and the Shach (Yoreh Deah 297:3) are lenient.

Although we usually follow the Rambam’s opinion, some poskim suggest that we might be able to rule leniently if only a rabbinic prohibition is involved, such as where the grafted tree exists already and one is not watering or pruning it (Chazon Ish, Kilayim 1:1).

MS. BAKER’S SHAYLAH

I mentioned earlier that a Jew who prunes or waters a kilayim tree violates the Torah prohibition whether in Eretz Yisroel or in Chutz La’Aretz. According to most authorities, one may not even own this tree and one is required to cut down the grafted part. However since this last prohibition is only midirabbanan according to most poskim, non-Jews may allow a grafted tree to survive and may even build a fence around it since they are not required to observe Rabbinic prohibitions. (Compare, however, Shu’t Mahari Asad, Yoreh Deah #350 and Shu’t Maharsham 1:179.) However, if the tree is grafted onto other species, Ms. Baker may not water or prune it because that is halachically equivalent to planting it which is prohibited according to most opinions. In my opinion, she may also not operate her sprinkler system to irrigate her lawn if the kilayim tree will benefit as a result.

May Ms. Baker ask another non-Jew to water her tree? The poskim dispute whether a non-Jew may ask or hire someone else to violate a mitzvah. Most contend that this is permissible, because the mitzvah of lifnei iveir, causing someone else to violate a mitzvah, does not apply to non-Jews (Tosafos, Avodah Zarah 16b s.v. linachri). Other poskim (Ginas Veradim, Klal 43) prohibit this, basing themselves on earlier sources that prohibit a ben Noach from violating a transgression that logic tells us to avoid (Rabbeinu Nissim, Introduction to Shas).

MAY WE EAT THE FRUITS OF A GRAFTED TREE?

One may eat the fruits of a grafted tree (Rambam, Hil. Kilayim 1:7, based on Yerushalmi). One may even take the shoot of a grafted tree and plant it after it has been severed from the original tree.

In all the six types of kilayim mentioned above, the general criterion is to avoid the appearance of different species being intermingled.

Concerning this, Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) writes, “The Great Lawgiver of the world separates the countless numbers of His creations in all their manifold diversity, and assigns to each one of them a separate purpose and a separate form for its purpose.”

In addition, observing the laws of kilayim helps us remember how various species obeyed Hashem’s instructions to remain separate during their creation, (the source for some halachos of kilayim as we saw above). This reminds the contemplative Jew that if the plants heeded Hashem’s word during the Creation, how much more are we obligated to obey all His instructions.

The author thanks Rabbi Shmuel Silinsky for his tremendous assistance in providing the horticultural information in this article.

Noahide Halacha 101

Today, I will be meeting someone who is extremely concerned and knowledgeable about halacha, yet doesn’t even keep a kosher home. Neither has he ever observed Shabbos. On the other hand, he is meticulous to observe every detail of Choshen Mishpat.

Who is this individual?

Allow me to introduce you to John Adams who is a practicing Noahide, or, as he prefers to call himself, an Adamite.

Adams asserts that he descends from the two famous presidents, a claim that I have never verified and have no reason to question. Raised in New England and a graduate of Harvard Law School, John rejected the tenets of the major Western religions but retained a very strong sense of G-d’s presence and the difference between right and wrong. Study and introspection led him to believe that G-d probably had detailed instructions for mankind, and sincere questioning led him to discover that of the Western religions, only Judaism does not claim a monopoly on heaven. A non-Jew who observes the Seven Laws taught to Noah and believes that G-d commanded them at Har Sinai has an excellent place reserved for him in olam haba.

John began the practice of these laws. John is quick to point out that, with only one exception, these laws were all commanded originally to Adam. Since John is proud of his family name and lineage, he likes calling himself an Adamite.

What are the basics of Noahide practice?

We all know that a gentile is required to observe seven mitzvos, six of them prohibitions, to avoid: idolatry, incest, murder, blasphemy, theft, and eiver min hachai (which we will soon discuss), and the seventh, the mitzvah of having dinim, whose nature is controversial. The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah #416) and others note that these seven mitzvos are actually categories, and a non-Jew is really required to observe several dozen mitzvos.

Kosher, Noah style

I asked John if eating meat presents any religious problems for him.

“Well, you know that Noah was prohibited from eating meat or an organ that was severed before the animal died, a prohibition you call eiver min hachai,” said John, obviously proud that he could pronounce the expression correctly. “So sometimes I come across meat that I may not eat. The following question once came up: Moslem slaughter, called halal, involves killing the animal in a way that many of its internal organs are technically severed from the animal before it is dead. Because of this, we are very careful where we purchase our organ meats.”

May a Noahide Eat Out?

“This problem went even further,” John continued. “Could we eat in a restaurant where forbidden meats may have contaminated their equipment?”

I admit that I had never thought of this question before. Must a gentile be concerned that a restaurant’s equipment absorbed eiver min hachai? Does a Noahide needs to “kasher” a treif restaurant before he can eat there? Oy, the difficulty of being a goy!

“How did you resolve this dilemma?” I timidly asked.

“Well, for a short time our family stopped eating out,” he replied. “You could say that we ate only treif at home. My wife found the situation intolerable – no MacDonald’s or Wendy’s? Although I know that observant Jews do not understand why this is such a serious predicament, but please bear in mind that we made a conscious decision not to become Jewish. One of our reasons was that we enjoy eating out wherever we can.

“So I decided to ask some rabbis I know, but even then the end of the road was not clearly in sight.”

“Why was that?”

“I had difficulty finding a rabbi who could answer the question. From what I understand, a rabbi’s ordination teaches him the basics necessary to answer questions that apply to kosher kitchens. But I don’t have a kosher house – we observe Adamite laws. As one rabbi told me, ‘I don’t know if Noahides need to be concerned about what was previously cooked in their pots.’”

“How did you resolve the predicament?”

How treif is treif?

“Eventually, we found a rabbi who contended that we need not be concerned about how pots and grills were previously used. He explained that we could assume that they had not been used for eiver min hachai in the past 24 hours, which certainly sounds like a viable assumption, and that therefore using them would only involve the possibility of a rabbinic prohibition, and that we gentiles are not required to observe rabbinic restrictions. The last part makes a lot of sense, since there is nothing in the Seven Laws about listening to the rabbis, although I agree that they are smart and sincere people. [Note: I am not certain who it was that John asked. According to Shu”t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #19 (at end), there would be no heter to use pots that once absorbed eiver min hachai. There are poskim who disagree with Chasam Sofer (see Darchei Teshuvah 62:5), but many of these hold that there is no prohibition altogether with a gentile using pots absorbed with eiver min hachai.]

“The result is that we now go out to eat frequently, which makes my wife very happy. It was a good decision for our marital bliss, what you call shalom bayis. Although I understand that this is another idea we are not required to observe, it is good, common sense.”

Milah in the Adams Family

When John’s son was born, he raised an interesting shaylah. To quote him: “Circumcision as a religious practice originates with G-d’s covenant with Abraham, the first Jew. But my covenant with G-d predates Abraham and does not include circumcision. However, even though there was no religious reason for my son to be circumcised, my wife and I thought it was a good idea for health reasons. On the other hand, I know that many authorities forbid a gentile, which I technically am, from observing any commandments that he is not specifically commanded (see Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 10:9).”

John is a very gregarious type, and loves to explain things fully. “We actually had two concerns about whether we could circ John Jr. The second one was that many authorities contend that the seventh mitzvah of instating ‘Laws,’ which you call ‘Dinim,’ includes a prohibition against injuring someone (Ramban, Genesis, oops, I mean Bereishis 34:13). According to this opinion, someone who hits someone during a street fight may lose his world to come for violating one of our seven tenets. I have come too far to risk losing my share in the world to come, so I try very hard not to violate any of the laws. I called some rabbis I know to ask whether there was any problem with circumcising my son for health reasons. The rabbi I asked felt that since we are doing this for medical reasons, it is similar to donating blood or undergoing surgery. The upshot was that we did what no self-respecting Jew should ever do: We had a pediatrician circumcise John Jr. on the third day after his birth, to emphasize that we were not performing any mitzvah.”

No Bris

Proud to show off his Hebrew, John finished by saying: “So we had a milah, but no bris. We also decided to skip the bagels and lox. Instead, my wife and I decided it was more appropriate to celebrate with shrimp cocktails, even though primordial Adam didn’t eat shrimp. All types of meat were only permitted to Noah after the Deluge, which you call the mabul. I believe that some authorities rule that Adam was permitted road kill and was only prohibited from slaughtering, while others understand he had to be strictly vegetarian. My wife and I discussed whether to go vegetarian to keep up the Adams tradition, but decided that if meat was ‘kosher’ enough for Noah, it is kosher enough for us. We decided we weren’t keeping any stringent practices even if they become stylish.”

Earning a Living

“Have you experienced any other serious dilemmas due to your being an ‘Adamite?’”

“Oh, yes. I almost had to change my career.”

I found this very curious. As John Adams seemed like an honest individual, it seemed unlikely that he had made his living by stealing or any similar dishonest activity.

Non-Jews are forbidden to perform abortions, which might affect how a Noahide gynecologist earns a living, but John is a lawyer, not a doctor. Even if John used to worship idols or had the bad habit of blaspheming, how would that affect his career?

May a Gentile Practice Law?

John’s research into Noahide law led him to the very interesting conclusion that his job as an assistant district attorney was halachically problematic. Here is what led him to this conclusion.

One of the mitzvos, or probably more accurately, categories of mitzvos, in which a Noahide is commanded in the mitzvah of dinim, literally, laws. The authorities dispute the exact definition and nature of this mitzvah. It definitely includes a requirement that gentile societies establish courts and prosecute those who violate the Noahide laws (Tosefta, Avodah Zarah 9:4; Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 9:14). Some authorities contend that the mitzvah of dinim prohibits injuring or abusing others or damaging their property (Ramban, Breishis 34:13).

However, this dispute leads to another issue that was more germane to John’s case. There is a major dispute among halachic authorities whether Noahides are governed by the Torah’s rules of property laws, which we refer to as Choshen Mishpat (Shu”t Rama #10), or whether the Torah left it to non-Jews to formulate their own property and other civil laws. If the former is true, a non-Jew may not sue in a civil court that uses any system of law other than the Torah. Instead, he must litigate in a beis din or in a court of non-Jewish judges who follow halachic guidelines. Following this approach, if a gentile accepts money based on civil litigation, he is considered as stealing, just as a Jew is. This approach is accepted by many early poskim (e.g., Tumim 110:3). Some authorities extend this mitzvah further, contending that the mitzvos governing proper functioning of courts and civil laws apply to Noahides (Minchas Chinuch #414; 415). Following this approach, enforcing a criminal code that does not follow the Torah rules violates the mitzvah of dinim.

As John discovered, some authorities extend this idea quite far. For example, one of the mitzvos of the Torah prohibits a beis din from convicting or punishing someone based on circumstantial evidence (Rambam, Sefer HaMitzvos, Lo Saaseh #290; Sefer HaChinuch #82). If the same applies to the laws of dinim, a gentile court has no right to use circumstantial evidence (Minchas Chinuch #82, #409). Thus, John was faced with an interesting predicament. According to these opinions, a gentile who prosecutes because of circumstantial evidence might violate the Seven Mitzvos of Noah even if the accused party appears to be guilty. It is understood that according to these opinions, one may not prosecute for the violation of a crime that the Torah does not consider to be criminal, or to sue for damages for a claim that has no halachic basis.

Napoleonic Code and Halacha

On the other hand, other authorities contend that non-Jews are not obligated to observe the laws of Choshen Mishpat; but instead the Torah requires them to create their own legal rules and procedures (HaEmek Shaylah #2:3; Chazon Ish, Bava Kamma 10:1). These authorities rule that gentiles perform a mitzvah when creating a legal system for themselves such as the Napoleonic Code, English Common Law, or any other commercial code. Following this approach, a non-Jew may use secular courts to resolve his litigation and even fulfills a mitzvah by doing so. Thus, John could certainly continue his work as a D.A. and that it would be a mitzvah for him to do so.

It is interesting to note that following the stricter ruling in this case also creates a leniency. According to those who rule that a gentile is not required to observe the laws of Choshen Mishpat, a gentile may not study these laws, since the Torah prohibits a gentile from studying Torah (see Tosafos, Bava Kamma 38a s.v. karu; cf., however, that the Meiri, Sanhedrin 59a, rules that a gentile who decides to observe a certain mitzvah may study the laws of that mitzvah in order to fulfill it correctly.) However, according to those who contend that the mitzvos of dinim follow the laws of Choshen Mishpat, a gentile is required to study these laws in order to observe his mitzvos properly (Shu”t Rama #10)).

John’s Dilemma

The rabbis with whom John consulted felt that a gentile could work as a district attorney. However, John had difficulty with this approach. He found it difficult to imagine that G-d would allow man to make such basic decisions and felt it more likely that mankind was expected to observe the Torah’s civil code. He therefore gravitated to the opinion of those who held that gentiles are required to observe the laws of Choshen Mishpat. As a result, he felt that he should no longer work in the D.A.’s office, since his job is to prosecute based on laws and a criminal justice system that the Torah does not accept.

“What did you do?”

“I decided to ‘switch sides’ and become a defense attorney, which has a practical advantage because I make a lot more money.”

“How do you handle a case where you know that your client is guilty?”

“Firstly, is he guilty according to halachah? Did he perform a crime? Is there halachically acceptable evidence? If there is no halachically acceptable evidence, he is not required to plead guilty. Furthermore, since none of my clients are Noahides or observant Jews, they can’t make it to heaven anyway, so let them enjoy themselves here. Even if my client is guilty, the punishment determined by the court is not halachically acceptable. It is very unclear whether jail terms are halachically acceptable punishment for gentiles. Philosophically, I was always opposed to jail time. I think that there are better ways to teach someone to right their ways than by incarceration, which is a big expense for society.”

Interesting Noahide Laws

“Have you come across any other curious issues?”

“Here is a really unusual question I once raised,” John responded. “Am I permitted to vote in the elections for a local judge? According to some authorities, the Torah’s prohibition against appointing a judge who is halachically incompetent applies equally to gentiles (Minchas Chinuch #414). Thus, one may not appoint a judge to the bench who does not know the appropriate Torah laws, which precludes all the candidates. When I vote for one of those candidates, I am actively choosing a candidate who is halachically unqualified to judge. I therefore decided that although there are authorities who rule this is permitted, and that therefore it is permitted to vote, I wanted to be consistent in my position. As a result, I vote religiously, but not for judgeships.

Becoming Jewish

“John, did you ever consider becoming Jewish?”

“First of all, I know that the rabbis will discourage me from becoming Jewish, particularly since I don’t really want to. I know exactly what I am required to keep and I keep that properly. I have no interest in being restricted where and what I eat, and I have no interest in observing Shabbos, which, at present, I may not observe anyway, and that is fine with me (Gemara Sanhedrin 58b). I am very willing to be a ‘Shabbos goy’— and I understand well what the Jews need — but it is rare that I find myself in this role. Remember, I do not live anywhere near a Jewish community.

Although I have never learned how to read Hebrew – why bother, I am not supposed to study Torah anyway – I ask enough questions from enough rabbis to find out all I need to know.

In Conclusion

Although it seems strange for a non-Jew to ask a rav a shaylah, this should actually be commonplace. Indeed, many non-Jews are concerned about their future place in Olam Haba and, had the nations not been deceived by spurious religions, many thousands more would observe the mitzvos that they are commanded. When we meet sincere non-Jews, we should direct them correctly in their quest for truth. Gentiles who observe these mitzvos because Hashem commanded them through Moshe Rabbeinu are called “Chassidei Umos HaOlam” and merit a place in Olam Haba.